Tim Giago, Huffington Post, June 9, 2009
Say it isn’t so! Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer has invaded Lakota country again, this time through the Happy Meals sold to little children at McDonald’s.
Bobbie DuBray, Administrative Assistant for the Lakota Peoples Law Project was not only shocked by this apparent display of racial insensitivity, but also angered by it.
DuBray says, “I went through the drive thru at McDonalds on East North Street to get a Happy Meal for my five-year-old son. I got home and my brother opened the meal and found the Custer doll.” She said he then asked her to come and look at what he found. To her shock it was Custer toy. Her son wanted the toy and she told him, “No. that’s a bad toy.” She said that her 10 year old daughter did not understand why the toy was bad. She and her mother, Betty Handley, then gave the girl a history lesson “My daughter was not taught about this in school. What are they teaching our children?” she asked.
DuBray, visibly upset by this experience, said, “I think it’s insulting. It’s like handing out KKK dolls in the south where there are a lot of Blacks.”
Belva Morrison, Indian Child Welfare Specialist for the Lakota Law Project, said that DuBray told her about the doll incident this morning. Morrison said, “It is insensitive for local merchants to hand out these dolls where there is a large Indian population. They should have thought twice about promoting these figurines. I don’t believe we’re overacting. I think we are not tolerating things like this anymore. They’re targeting young kids whose minds are easily impressed.”
The question that immediately came to the mind of Jason Wolters, an Oglala Lakota, was, “I don’t think the big shots at McDonald’s realize what an insult this is to the Lakota people. Here was a man responsible for the death of many Lakota and a man responsible for discovering the gold that eventually led to the theft of the Sacred Black Hills of the Great Sioux Nation, and they have the audacity to hand out his likeness to children here in Rapid City, a town now fighting to prove it is not a racist community?”
Wolters compared the insult to putting a figurine of Adolph Hitler in a McDonald’s Happy Meal served in Tel Aviv, Israel. “Most white people would never understand our perspective on this horrible faux paux, but to every Indian in America, the insult is obvious,” he said.
Yesterday several customers, white and Indian, visited different McDonald’s shops in Rapid City and ordered Happy Meals. They soon discovered their packets did not contain a Custer figurine and motorcycle. They went to the counter and specifically asked for a Custer memento and were told there were none to be had. Customers buying Happy Meals without the Custer figurine were offered refunds on the meal if they so requested. It became apparent that McDonald’s withdrew the offensive Custer figurines quietly and without comment.